China hails ‘friendship’ with N Korea, urges closer ties

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Pyongyang—China has hailed the “traditional friendship” with North Korea as “valuable wealth” for both nations, emphasizing the need to further promote bilateral relations as Beijing’s envoy visits Pyongyang amid tensions over the North’s military program.

Song Tao, who heads the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s International Department, made the comments after arriving in Pyongyang on Friday and visiting North Korean official, Choe Ryong Hae.

The department said in a statement that Song briefed Choe on the outcome of the recently concluded Communist Party Congress in China, and then the two senior figures talked about ties between their parties and countries.

“They said that the traditional friendship between China and North Korea was founded and cultivated by both countries former old leaders, and is valuable wealth for the two peoples,” the department said.

“Both sides must work hard together to promote the further development of relations between the two parties and two countries to benefit their two peoples,” it added.

The department made no mention of North Korea’s nuclear or missile programs, which are strongly opposed by China.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) confirmed the report of meeting between the two officials, saying that Song informed Choe about China’s 19th National Congress “in detail,” and stressed China’s stance to “develop the traditional friendly relations between the two parties and countries.”

The visit, whose length and content have not been specified in reports, is the first by a high-ranking Chinese official to North Korea in more than a year.

The trip comes about a week after US President Donald Trump held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Beijing as part of his 5-nation tour of Asia and said they agreed to “increase economic pressure until North Korea abandons its reckless and dangerous path.”

Washington has repeatedly called on Beijing, which accounts for 90 percent of Pyongyang’s foreign trade, to put more economic pressure on the nuclear-armed North Korea.

China has previously pushed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis over North Korea; however, Pyongyang has so far ignored Beijing’s calls to end its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and return to the negotiating table.

North Korea staged its sixth nuclear test on September 3 and launched a ballistic missile on September 15, firing it over Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

Tensions have been building on the peninsula following a series of nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang as well as threats of war and personal insults traded between Trump and the North Korean leader.

North Korea has been under a raft of crippling United Nations sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests as well as multiple rocket and missile launches.

Pyongyang has firmly defended its military program as a deterrent against the hostile policies of the US and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.

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